Meet the Teacher Night

Every year, on the Thursday before the new school year begins, the kids get to meet their new teachers. I have no clue if this is how it is done at other elementary (primary) schools in other cities, states or countries. I don’t even recall if I met my teachers before the first day of school when I was in elementary school.

But here in San Antonio, we have Meet the Teacher night. This is a two-hour drop in time where you can bring your school supplies to the classroom and well…meet your new teacher.

And it is this Thursday!

Wow! The summer has flown by! (Actually today, we should get a call from each kids’ teacher letting us know who their teacher is. We will be staying close to the phone, anxiously waiting to find out who they have this year.)

IMG_2752I remember always being a little nervous and excited on the first day of school. Some of those nerves are relieved by Meet the Teacher night. Now the kids know where their classroom is and often where they are going to be sitting. They have met their teacher and had a chance to find out who else is in their class.

Often the teachers have forms for the parents to fill out while the kids put away their supplies or follow some sort of instructions to orient them to the room and rules.

But in addition to meeting their teacher, this is the time to buy agenda books for the older grades, sign up for the PTA, buy spirit shirts and put money into the kids’ cafeteria accounts.

Two of those activities – PTA memberships and Spirit Shirts – are the responsibility of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for which I am the treasurer. So as you can imagine, this is a busy time for us. It is actually the day we sell the most merchandise and sign up the majority of our members.

This means I have to split my duties between taking the kids to see their teacher and my PTA duties. As treasurer, most of my time actually comes at the end of the night when we count up all the money. But there is always setting up before the evening starts too.

There is a lot of work involved, but right now I don’t care about that. I am just waiting for the phone to ring. We want to know which teachers they will have next Monday. Wow! Can’t believe their first day is just a week away.

Today’s Featured Author – MF Moskwik

Please welcome author MF Moskwik to my blog. MF’s debut novel, Heart Break, was released in June and is the first in the Isabel Swift series.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a writer and scientist. I love dogs! I’ve got two of them-an eleven year old cockapoo and a nine year old beagle. My favorite word, now, is probably proboscis, which refers to a long nose, but that changes daily. I was born in New Jersey but raised in Texas, near the Gulf Coast, which means that when I miss home, I miss the beach, I miss hot, torrential summer rain storms, and I miss the melting pot of delicious Cajun, Latin, Asian, Caribbean, and Barbecue foods that make up the cultural dinner table of that region. Mmm! Good times!

Do you have an all time favorite book? 

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. It’s about a princess who discovers her own power to become a slayer of dragons who is then tasked with saving her kingdom from the sorcerer who murdered her mother.  Her best friend is a beloved, aged, injured horse, Talat, that she rehabilitates and uses as her dragon-slaying steed. AND she’s in a love triangle with a prince who is her childhood best friend and a magician who teachers her to use her powers.  Seriously, that book fires on all cylinders, and probably the reason I love books.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Robin McKinley (see above). Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  If I could go back in time, then I would also meet Kurt Vonnegut and Maurice Sendak. Why? Because I love their books-and I’d just want to thank them.

Please tell us about your current release.

Heart Break is a mystery-technothriller about a police officer, Isabel Swift, assigned to solve a burglary case involving equipment from a local university with a new partner, Mark Jameson. Learning to work with a new person is always an adjustment, but Isabel and Mark have different approaches to the work, and, as we learn, both are dealing with recent loss of a work partner or life partner. It’s a potent mix of opposite personalities and raw emotions, but, for me, as a writer, watching them discover how to work together and lean on one another to get through the case and through their grief was a joy.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

That’s a good question! I wish I had certain traits of the characters. I wish I had Izzy’s swagger! She’s a good cop-she’s young and still needs to gain the experience she needs to become a detective, but she’s got a mouth and a lot of confidence-and I wish I had that same effortless faith in myself that she does.

This book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

The next book in the series is called Devil’s Breath! For the biologists or biology curious, it’s got a neuroscience centered plot, a secret affair, and betrayal. I’m aiming for a December/January release, and the first pages of it will be released soon on my blog and on the Heart Break website, so definitely check back soon!

Book Blurb

Heart BreakIsabel Swift is a savvy, down-to-earth, female police officer who protects the citizens of Westchester County and wants to become a detective. From a broken home, her brothers and sisters in blue are her family, and she is shaken by the recent, unexpected death of her mentor, Ben Carter, from what everyone thinks was a heart attack. On her first day back from leave, she is paired with an arrogant forensic data scientist, Mark Jameson, who is more interested in analyzing data than solving the crime of stolen technology to which they are assigned.

When their investigation uncovers an unexpected link between the theft and her mentor’s death, Swift and Jameson have only 48 hours to whittle down a countywide list of suspects, track down the stolen technology, and solve the mystery of Ben Carter’s death. Can Isabel overcome her grief and her differences with her new partner to solve the case and earn her detective’s badge?

About the Author

MF Moskwik is a writer, scientist, and cynophilist, living with two mischievous dogs in the Inland Northwest.

You can find out more about MK on her blog.

You can purchase Heart Break on Amazon.

Show, Don’t tell: A sample

Often as writers, we hear “show, don’t tell.” This simply means that instead of stating someone is hungry, scared, nervous, excited or angry that we should get that message across by how our character acts or reacts to the situation.

Now for some, this may be a daunting challenge. How do I show this, you might wonder. Sometimes it might help to imagine yourself in the situation. Or perhaps you can think of a scene from a movie.

If someone is hungry, they might lick their lips as they stare at a pie, or they may place their hand over their rumbling belly.

When you are scared, your heart pounds. You jump at strange noises in the darkened house as you tightly grip your flashlight.

Hopefully, you get the idea. I wrote the following short scene as a demonstration of “show, don’t tell” based on a shore excursion my family took this week. (I am on vacation now so this scene was actually written BEFORE we went on the Twister Boat.)

The Twister Boat

Her hand gripped the edge of the seat. Her heart pounded as the speed boat raced across the water. The driver turned sharply. Her stomach tightened as the boat spun. A wave of sea water crashed over the squealing passengers.

“Uno mas, Hector!” someone yelled.

Others joined in, calling for Hector, the driver, to do it one more time.

Hector, a tall thin man with an easy smile, laughed as he set the boat racing again. Stella steeled herself for the upcoming maneuver. The brochure had promised the daring excitement of a high-speed boat with moves guaranteed to soak you. And it hadn’t lied. But Stella longed for the white sandy beaches and margarita that the brochure assured her was at the end of this wild ride.

As the boat spun again and the other riders called out for another spin, Stella sighed. Obviously, Hector would continue to indulge the others. He set the boat speeding across the water. This time she relaxed her grip on the seat slightly. Tipping her head back, she closed her eyes as the boat twisted in the water. A warm wave of salty water drenched her. She laughed.

“Uno mas, Hector,” she cried out.

***

Instead of telling you that Stella is nervous – perhaps even scared – by the maneuvers of the Twister Boat, you learn about it by her actions. Her heart pounds. She grips the seat. And then in the end, she tries giving into the fun by not clutching the seat as tightly. She tilts back her head and closes her eyes to enjoy the motion of the boat. And we know she likes it because she laughs and calls out for ‘one more time.’

So keep the writing adage of “Show, Don’t Tell” in front of you as you write, and let your readers feel and experience what your character’s feel, rather than telling them.

 

Attending the Texas PTA leadership conference

Imagine thousands of women and men all with the same goal – to improve the lives of their teachers and students. That is exactly the type of people attending the LAUNCH_REG_Web-Banner-300x142Texas Parent-Teacher Association Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas last month.

Most of us in attendance are officers on our local PTA boards though any PTA member can attend. One school brought their whole PTA board of 20 people!

This was my second year attending the conference. (Last year, it was in Houston and next year it will be in my hometown – San Antonio.)

There were classes to fit every interest level – from the basics of how to do your position (Treasurer, Parliamentarian, President, Fundraising, Secretary, etc.) to PTA issues (how to deal with contentious meetings or other drama, expanding membership, getting volunteers) to parenting issues (Lice, cyber bullying, talking about sex, online safety) and even personal things such as what to cook for dinner and how to save for college.

Last year when I went, it was my first year as Treasurer so most of the classes I took pertained to my position save one, which was on using technology in your presentations. (I already love doing graphics and videos so it was right up my alley and proved very useful.)

This year, since I was already secure in my current position, I mostly took other classes that interested me. That might be why I liked this year’s conference so much better than last year’s.

Here are the Classes and Discussion Groups that I attended.

Classes

Treasurer Basics – Took this one the year before but came in late and thought I could make sure I am doing everything right. However, with all the questions from the audience, the speaker only covered a third of her presentation. This was my least favorite class and the only one I turned in an evaluation form on.

Making the Treasurer’s Job Easier through Financial Transparency – Last year, we bought the program PT Avenue to keep track of our members, volunteers and finances. I took this course to see if I was taking advantage of all the financial features of the software. The speaker was very funny, and I learned a few new tricks.

Increasing Participation in Events and Volunteer Opportunities with PT Avenue – Again, I took this course to better use the features of our new software. I learned some things to pass on to our volunteer coordinator.

Friends, Frenemies and Fitting In – This one was personal. My seven-year-old has already been talking about the drama of the classroom. This week Madison is her friend and the next week she complains Madison is being mean to her. Nora doesn’t like her, and James said this or that about her. And I only see this as getting worse. The course was very good. The woman talked a lot about what parents should do in certain situations and about teaching girls to like themselves.

Bylaws and Standing Rules – You would think this might be a boring topic but the lecture just flew by. I learned a lot and as we update our bylaws in the next year or so, I am sure this course will help out.

Discussion Groups

Why PTA in 5 minutes or Less – This was a fun session where we brainstormed what to discuss with other parents who are reluctant to join the PTA. This was an excellent example from one of the groups.

The value of our PTA is found in the programs and resources we can provide above and beyond what the school can provide. We hope to engage families to take an active role in the lives of their students to help them reach their full potential. It’s about leveraging and enhancing our students’ learning experiences. And through the PTA we can influence legislative action such as advocating for state testing changes and be a voice for our kids.

Conflict Stinks! Can’t we just get along? – We have very little conflict in our PTA, but it happens. This session made me value the excellent parents of our PTA. We certainly are better off than some of the other people who brought up issues in their PTAs.

There were many other classes or discussions I would like to have joined, but there is only so much time. And this doesn’t include the vendor fair, the regular PTA annual meeting, special lunches and banquets. (Of that last list we only made it to the vendor fair for the free samples.)

I went with three other ladies from the PTA, and we never went to a class together so we could gather the most information to share with our board. It was fun, informative weekend and next year, with the conference is in our town, we hope to send even more people to it.

Today’s Featured Author – Ian Dexter Palmer

Today, I welcome author Ian Dexter Palmer to my blog. Ian is on a Virtural Book Tour to promote his book Weed and Water: Bringing the resources of God to a teenager.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Born and raised in Australia. I am a scientist – studied cosmic rays in the first part of my career and fracking in the last part. Wrote and published tons of engineering articles, but always wanted to publish a book. This happened when I retired. I have no children, but have six grandchildren.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have started a book called Nerd in a Blue Leather Jacket. It’s about different ways for receiving insights and wisdom from God…. for work and for life. It includes experiences from other folks, as well as from my nerdy professional career and private life.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

Apart from writing, my interests are hiking, dancing, and playing pickleball. My goal is to write half a day, like Ian Fleming did to create James Bond in Jamaica. I recently lost three months after my home flooded.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I’ve always been a thinker, and with a book topic on my mind, plot ideas just come. When they arrive, I diligently jot them down. My mind has a strong “connection” ability, and connections relevant to my book flow in all the time. If I get stuck I fill up my conscious mind and go to bed. The subconscious often provides the answer I need next morning in the shower.

Please tell us about your current release.

The book Weed and Water is about a troubled teenager called Ethan who gets involved in sex and drugs to bury his pain and shame. Because they care, his family and friends share with Ethan outdoors adventure (and danger), all the while exploring life’s issues and learning to grow trust in each other. This is a story of love and perseverance, despite many Ethan setbacks on his journey to freedom from drugs. The author poses many of life’s big questions via the troubled teen, and gives well thought out responses based on his own walk and faith in God. His love of the Southwest and outdoors also shines through his descriptions of the adventure localities.

What inspired you to write this book? How did you come up with the title?

I have a granddaughter who is 16, and a grandson who is 13. They are in the challenging years, so I chose to write about the lure of sex and drugs (call it Weed). These kids also know about faith in God (call it Water). I wanted to write about the tension within many teenagers as they slosh, like seaweed in the ocean, back and forth between the Weed and the Water.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

My favorite is Jackson the coangel because he represents pure mystery. I hate Randy, the boy who introduced Ethan to drugs.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I write with a window view, unlike Ian Fleming who wrote at a triangle desk set in a corner, so he couldn’t see out. I love to look up and see Sandia Peak at 11,000 feet altitude, and always changing colors. Spectacular in the monsoon season when the Peak is embraced by thunderheads.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

The Killer Mountains by Curt Gentry, which is about searches for and murders associated with the Lost Dutchman’s Goldmine in the Superstition Mountains outside Phoenix. I’ve hiked in there and it’s a spooky place.

Book Blurb

weed and waterA mysterious stranger helps a teenage boy called Ethan rescue his mentor, an elderly father-figure, from drowning when their canoe capsizes in a flooding river. A star athlete, Ethan later gets involved in unsafe sex, which leads to drugs, and gets him blackballed by jealous and gossiping team-mates. The boy is going down, and at times hates himself for it and for hurting his mom who is a caring, loving, and beautiful woman.

After another disastrous episode, where Ethan might have died, the river-stranger turns up again to confront him about his life choices. However, even after rehab, the boy’s condition is marked by a yo-yo attitude which causes massive emotional heartache for his mom.

The river-stranger, after sharing his own amazing history, suggests taking the fight to another level which draws on the resources of God. This begins a new and fascinating sequence of events, including a tornado, which get Ethan’s attention.

The book is a captivating story, packed with adventure in the desert Southwest and in the rivers and lakes of the Midwest USA. But it is also a goldmine of spiritual wisdom for teenagers. The mystery that permeates the story is compelling, and the thrilling ending may call for a tissue or two.

About the Author

ian palmerOriginally from Australia, Ian lives in the high desert in his beloved Southwest USA. As a petroleum engineer, recently retired, he consulted all over the world. When he hikes with them or watches them play sports, Ian’s grandchildren are a particular source of happiness. His main interests are hiking, dancing, writing, and stimulating conversation. Ian regularly writes a new blog on various topics relating to Christian faith, and has also written a book called Hiking Toward Heaven.

You can find out more about Ian on his website.

Weed and Water can be purchased at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.